Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Celtis occidentalis

Common hackberry, Northern hackberry, American hackberry, Nettle tree, Beaverwood, False elm

Ulmaceae (Elm Family)

Celtis occidentalis (Common hackberry)
Makin, Julie
The common hackberry is a 60-100 ft. deciduous tree, varying greatly in response to habitat. The broad crown is often erratic in shape. Tree with rounded crown of spreading or slightly drooping branches, often deformed as bushy growths called witches’-brooms. Older bark is covered with conspicuous, corky projections. The plant foliage is dull-green and rough. Its fall color is not impressive. Orange-brown to dark-purple berries are arranged in clusters.

Used for furniture, athletic goods, boxes and crates, and plywood. The common name apparently was derived from hagberry, meaning marsh berry, a name used in Scotland for a cherry. Many birds, including quail, pheasants, woodpeckers, and cedar waxwings, consume the sweetish fruits. Branches of this and other hackberries may become deformed due to bushy growths called witches-brooms produced by mites and fungi. The leaves often bear rounded galls caused by tiny jumping plant lice.

Image Gallery:

47 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Inflorescence: Axillary
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: 60-100
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Purple, Red
Size Class: 72-100 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr


USA: AL , AR , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: MB , ON , QC
Native Distribution: NH to WY, s. to GA, AR & n.w. TX
Native Habitat: Stream banks; flood plains; rocky hillsides of open woods

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Rich, moist soils. pH adaptable.


Use Wildlife: Hackberries are among the best food and shelter plants for wildlife. The fruit is relished by birds.
Use Food: Americans made cakes by pulverizing the entire fruit, including the seed, making a nutritious food that could be stored.
Dakota people used the dried fruit as a spice.
Native Americans used hackberry extracts medicinally, for sore throats, colds, regulation of menstrual periods. (Athenic)

Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Question Mark, Mourning Cloak, American Snout

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Celtis occidentalis is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Wild cherry sphinx
(Sphinx drupiferarum)

Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA
Tawny Emperor
(Asterocampa clyton)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
American Snout
(Libytheana carinenta)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Question Mark
(Polygonia interrogationis)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Mourning Cloak
(Nymphalis antiopa)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-11-12